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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Beginning Reading Help: Use Magnetic Letters to Teach Decoding Words Before Reading a Book

Here is a great read on helping your child learn how to read in a creative and fun way. She includes some really helpful videos. Magnetic letters are not hard to come by, in fact you probably already have some. However if you are looking for them on a budget, you can proably find some at the dollar store. I also use bottlecaps to make letter learning time fun. Save your bottle caps,  set some aside to write the alphabet on the cap tops, and store them in a ziploc. IF you were feeling ambitious, you may even make some into magnets yourself :) Enjoy the article!

Beginning Reading Help: Use Magnetic Letters to Teach Decoding Words Before Reading a Book

Monday, January 24, 2011

Teaching Kids to Type-Reviews

So I had some time to look through and have Joshua try out the resources posted by Book Chook on  Teaching Kids to Type.

Her first recommendation was Tux Typing  which features Tux, the Linux penguin. It's available as a free download for Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux. There are two games, Fish Cascade and Comet Zap and each comes graded from easy to hard. Games start with alphabet identification or finding the keys on your keyboard, and move on to practice fluency and accuracy. I did not try this link out personally because my computer said the security software was not ...well...secure...you will have to check that one out for yourself if you are interested, if you do try it, please do let me know what you thought.

Her second recomendation was Type for Gold which is a game you don't need to download but you can play online. It is a racing game, like track n field racing. There are a number of runners on the starting line and there is a bulletin board above them, when the race starts, the bulletin board will reveal a word, the player has to type the word that is in the bulletin board and it makes thier player run faster. After each word is typed(whether correct or incorrect) the word changes. The faster you type, the closer you get to the finish line, the slower you type, the slower you get to the finish line.

There are different levels and the higher the level the larger the words are.  I would recommend this site for older kids or even adults who perhaps are a little more seasoned in typing and just want to enhance thier speed and accuracy. My reasons behind this are that the game moves really fast, even when I myself typed the words at my usual pace, on the easiest level, I lost more often than won. If the child is constantly losing, that makes the game not fun, or motivational. So I dont give this website a GOLD metal recomendation, but I would give it a bronze for someone who wanted to enhance and practice their skills.

Her third recomendation was Dance Mat Typing which is an offering from the BBC Online. It is very well organized, it starts with an explanation and teaches correct finger placement. Then it moves on slowly, emphasizing lots of drills and repetition to drive the key locations and movements into their memory. I do give this site a GOLD metal. It was very much a great teaching resource. It shows the kids where to put thier fingers and gives them a screen that shows where the letters are so they are not always lifting thier fingers to find the letters. It has a number of levels too, which I didnt try all of them, but level one was very helpful. There are a number of fun characters and interesting and unique features to help make it exciting. My 5 yr old really enjoyed it and seemed to really understand the concept. I think if we do a little each day he will have it down in no time. Best of all this is a FREE resource! Free is always a good thing :)

So there are my teaching Kids to type reviews, try them out for yourself and let me know what you think :)

What Are You Looking for?

I would like to post a Q & A blogpost to try and answer as many questions as I can that people have about homeschooling, and parenting ideas. I am not all knowing, but I will be sure to research and find answers to the questions I dont know the answers to :) I would also love to recieve emails on topic suggestions you would like to hear about, as well as some general feedback on what you would like to see more of, or less of on my blog. I want to make my blog one that is helpful to YOU! Help me to do so by sending your questions and comments to teachableme@gmail.com

Thank you,
Marybeth Santos

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Todays Website Highlight www.hubbardscupboard.org

When I first started doing home education with my oldest son Joshua, when he was around one year old, I simply wanted to be a faithful as a mother, to nurture and love my son, and train him up in the way he should go. I would basically wing it, coming up with ideas to pass time, and grow us closer together through playtime and learning. I was usually getting books from the library in a theme, and then making up art projects and games etc. to surround the book theme for the week. I tend to be more of the creative artistic type, so that kind of thing was fun for me to do and came naturally.  However, when he started getting a little older, I wanted something more concrete. I would still do the same kind of thing, just on a deeper level, but I had things I wanted to teach him though I was not sure how that should look. It was around then that a good friend turned me on to a great resource. The website she sent me was http://www.hubbardscupboard.org/ and it was what completely jump started my journey, and excitement for homeschooling.

This website has it all! They have full lesson plans outlined for you in full detail, there is only minimal preparation, such things as printing, organizing, and cutting. They have all your lessons pre-planned for you, what you should do day by day, broken down in a few different kind of ways, so it appeals to many learning and teaching styles, they even have it broken down hourly if you need that, They provide many printable worksheets, they suggest books to buy or check out at the library which supplement the lesson, they have songs, poems, nursery rymes, and many projects games and other items to illustrate and practice as per their lesson plan for each week.

It is a Christian curriculum and goes along with a Bible theme each week, or as the kids are older, a character trait theme, always with corresponding Biblical verses, stories, and songs to illustrate that trait or theme. A variety of subjects are covered in a weekly plan, all somehow connecting to that weeks theme. This is MY personal favorite way to teach my kids. I love when every subject is connected, thats how the world works isnt it. It helps me to show how all areas of life work together, how God is in everything, and how we are constantly learning, even in our everyday tasks.

Here is a good example, when learning about Adam and Eve, you will, read the story, sing a song and memorize a verse, as well as do counting math by using 10 5x7 full color tree print outs provided by the site, and small apples to fit the trees (you will need to cut them out) to create an apple tree counting book, you and your child will count out the appropriate ammt of apples, placing each one on a designated tree, each page has a different number, they are numbered up to 10. You will also do a letter which is A is for adam, which pairs with the song Adam ate an apple, a-a-a to illustrate the sound of the letter as well. Apple paint prints, and apples for a snack.

Hubbards Cupboard provides ideas and pictures of those ideas for different art projects, sensory tub ideas, etc. and and often provide everything you need through printable worksheets to make them. You can use their ideas or create some of your own, which I do often. It is everything you would get in a "boxed" curriculum....for FREE! They also provide many useful links on thier site for you to look through and they are extremely informative. I really attribute this website to my feeling confident in my ability to homeschool my kids, and for giving me a one stop resource to show me what that should look like. It really got me started on the right foot. They have curriculum plans for babies thru 5 year olds and then have many links to provide homeschool support for kindergarten as well.

I hope you will check this site out, even if you are not planning to homeschool, its got lots of exciting options  to entertain your children in a way that provides enrichment and fun, for a rainy day, a weekend, or just for everyday ways to spend time together. :)

If this article was helpful to you, I would love to recieve your feedback.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Internet sites and Game day learning - great in a pinch

Here is a helpful tip. Stock up on lots of learning games they come in really handy in a pinch, and are a great way to test the skills out that you have been teaching your little ones. They come in very handy on days when you may not have a ton of time to sit down and focus on a "rigorous" lesson plan for the day, or if your schedule doesnt allow you a lot of time for planning for some reason or another. Instances that this has happened for me are around holiday times, doctor appts, and recently when I was potty training my middle child.

While potty training, I needed to be connected at the hip and devote much attention to him during the three days of initial training, I would at many times have to drop what I was doing to rush him off to the potty, Ironically I just had to do this while writing this sentence :) That being said, I didnt have alot of planning time, nor time to devote to concentrated lessons.

His training crossed over into two of our homeschool days. Heres how I utilized internet and learning games to my advantage.

Day 1:     No matter what, we always start the day with our Bible study. I utilize a great curriculum for their age that I ordered from http://www.biblestudyguide.com/ the curriculum is very affordable and the whole lesson is outlined for you in a really great way, you can choose your age group. My kids love it, and I love using it.

Then I had Joshua just work on a few worksheets, then I utilized the web to practice the skills on the sheets. He spent 30 minutes doing math practice problems on http://www.ixl.com/ this is a great learning and practice site that allows anyone to have 20 free practice problems a day. If you subscribe, they will give you updates on your childs progress and give your child rewards to motivate them to keep practicing. Then he spent 30 minutes on http://www.starfall.com/ practicing his reading. This site is free as well, and does have additional resources available for subscription.

The boys got a big bucket filled with wild animals for Christmas. I had each of them pick an animal that they wanted to learn about. Once they made their selections, we went to http://www.animalplanet.com/ to find out all about that animal. We noted all the general information about those animals, habitat, food, etc. and they had to utilize that information in imaginative play. I had joshua put together some drawings for each animal to illustrate what was learned. We will compile a book of these drawings to be used as a presentation at the end of the week. The rest of the time I let them use thier imagination to build using their Roylco straws and connectors http://www.fatbraintoys.com/ or http://www.strawsandconnectors.com/ which occupys them for hours.

Day 2:     This day was purely a game day. Dont feel guilty for these kinds of days, even public schools have "extracurricular" days where they take a break from thier regular standard classroom learning to engage in other activities. Sounds like a cop-out but I assure you it is far from it. With the right kind of games, you can get a glimpse into just how much your child is understanding what you are teaching them, if you pay close attention you can find out what you may need to concentrate a little harder on in your one on one time.

Games are an excellent way to give them a chance to utilize what they are learning in a practical way. We started the day working on some mind blowing science experaments exloring acids and bases using our science for creative minds kit with everything you need to conduct multiple experiments the kids looooooove it, and there is enough supplies to conduct the experiments multiple times. Check out http://www.scientificexplorer.com/ or http://www.fatbraintoys.com/. We followed it up with a game of hyperdash, which I love!!! You can set it for any level and it calls out numbers, colors, mathematical equations, sequences, and you place these discs all over the table or all over the house, and you take the wand and find the colors that are called out. It can be simple enough for my 3 year old to understand, or complicated enough to challenge even my husband and I. Its great for color, number recognition as well as math practice for older kids and adults. visit http://www.fatbraintoys.com/ to view a video.

After a little break and snack we played a game of chutes and ladders to work on our number recognition, counting, number sequencing, and of course learning to follow rules and instructions, wait your turn etc which is always good practice especially for my 3 yr old. Soon after we played spanish bingo http://www.eeboo.com/ or http://www.fatbraintoys.com/.  After naptime we worked on our spelling with Match it puzzles from http://www.learningjourney.com/ I got mine at Ross for $4.99. Even my 3 year old can do it even though he doesnt read, he LOOOOVES puzzles but over time it will give him good letter recognition practice as he puts together pictures with the letters spelling what the picture is. We ended the day doing math problems with our Inchimals, using these brilliant wooden animal blocks to create math equations. The kids love the fun painted animal "rulers" which have inch marks painted on the sides and counting decimals on one end and numbers on the other end, marking how many inches each animal is...you can follow the equations in the book or create your own. Visit http://www.fatbraintoys.com/ for more inormation and a video on this creative resource.

So my recommendation is that you try and stock up on these learning toys as you go, they are great in a pinch, as well as an actvity related alternative to television if you need a break in the day. I usually try and use at least one or two a day as part of my regular days plan, and have been known to pull them out if the boys start getting a little wiley and I want to get them to settle down. Ive attached the websites, though you can find many of these at discounted prices in stores like Ross, Marshalls, TJ MAXX, consignment stores, garage sales you name it. So keep your eye out and stock up when you get a chance. There is a world of fun just waiting to be had in those little brains, fill em up with things that help them grow, and not mindless activities.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

First things first

To start I would like to make known that this is my first ever blog that I have actually been able to follow through enough to get it going. Life as a homeschool mom of 3 boys 5 and under doesnt always leave loads of time to take part in things like blogging, though Ive wanted to start one up for quite some time. I was struggling to keep all my homeschooling records straight and I figured if I could keep all the information stored somewhere electronically...like in a blog...that it would be a great resource for me to reference quickly when I need it, to reference when I need it for my younger kids as they approach elementary years, as well as when others who may be new to homeschooling come to inquire as to my experience, strategies and where to start. I can have a solid resource to refer them to.

 It was my experience, when inquiring of my seasoned friends, that there really is no short answer to give to a first time homeschooler. If any of you first timers are anything like me, you wanted to state your needs and have someone drop a box on your table of the ultimate homeschooling curriculum. Unfortunately that is not how it works. What works for one person, won't neccesarily work for another, and its a neverending system of trial and error.

For the most part, you need to find something that works for your family. Each student learns differently and the beauty of it all is that you can tailor a curriculum around meeting each childs unique needs. That my friends is what I LOVE about homeschooling. I have so much fun finding a new thing that works and excites an area of learning in my son, especially when I find something that he enjoys and wants to learn from, in an area he may not be overly interested in. I am aware of each childs strengths, and weaknesses and can form a curriculum that works for them, considering these needs. Its so great to have that freedom instead of having them go through school being forced into the same mold as everyone else. I am not knocking public, and private schools, we may even pursue those options in the future. We just feel this is what God has for our family right now in these early training years. I feel that the freedom learn at thier own pace, skill and interest level, that homeschooling offers, gives them more of an opportunity to excersize their areas of gifting, giving them that much more of an advantage to grow and become the person whom God designed them to be.

It is also finding what works for YOU as a homeschooler...What kind of budget do you have to work with, do you have alot of time to plan, are you organized, disorganized, creative. Do you want to plan it all yourself or do you want someone to tell you exactly what to do, a line by line, play by play of what to say and do to teach a concept.

Its all out there, you just have to look and find what works for you. That was a wake up call for this homeschool mom, I had to realize that no one was going to drop that box of perfect curriculum for our family on my front porch, that I was going to have to saddle up and do the dirty work myself. One thing I can say is that as a homeschool mom, you will spend alot of your free time doing research, research, research. Thats really the best way to grow in knowledge about the subject and find what works best for your family.

I am hoping that by posting the sites I have found helpful, it will at least lift some of the burden of finding reliable information. I am certainly not finished posting, I have some other resources to post but I was eager to get my blog on :) By all means if someone has any kind of reccomendations, resources, blogs, or suggestions PLEASE let me know so I can check them out for myself, as well as share them here. Advice and resources for any age are welcome. Most of the information I will personally post will be for Pre-K and elementary age, just because that is the stage of life we are at right now.

Just a disclaimer, I am new to this blogging business so bear with me if I am slow to post, reply, or whatever it is I am supposed to do here hehe. I am just so happy to be able to share this journey with other like minded friends. I look forward to growing together as we allow ourselves to be teachable in the area of homeschooling. I am really praying this will be a blessing to the homeschool community.